Jason Kane's Reviews > Origin

Origin by Dan Brown
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really liked it

Dan Brown tells subtlety to get lost in his latest literary scavenger hunt of academia, Origin. This time Brown’s symbologist protagonist finds himself in Spain hunting down the mystery surrounding a billionaire computer scientist, and former student of Langdon’s, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch was gunned down at an event he was hosting at the Guggenheim Bilbao, where he claimed he’d be making a presentation that would end the age of religion and usher in the age of science. However, Kirsch is murdered before he can unveil his discovery. Furthermore, two prominent religious guests are also assassinated soon after launching the world into a tizzy. Langdon connects with the Guggenheim Bilbao curator, Ambra Vidal who helped Kirsch organize the event and who is also engaged to married to the current Prince, soon to be King of Spain. No doubt about it, powerful forces are at hand who want to ensure Kirsch’s discovery never sees the light of day, and they are obviously willing to kill to keep it secret. Now Vidal and Langdon serve as the Brown-cliché team set on solving Kirsch’s murder, and more importantly, uncovering his discovery and releasing it to the world.

This is a decent addition to Brown’s little Langdon library. There is plenty of evidence of Brown spinning his wheels, but Origin works a little better than Brown’s previous novel, Inferno, which I still liked (ending aside). Even though half the world’s population hung in the balance in Inferno, the stakes seem far more intense in Origin even though very few are in any true mortal danger here; immortal maybe, but not mortal. Brown still carries on his manipulative strategy of drawing out events to create suspense, and while it works more often than it doesn’t, I feel cheap for liking it.

Brown does seem more energized as a writer with Origin though. Perhaps it’s because it’s the first time since The DaVinci Code that he’s pushed the envelope a little. Brown actively invites discourse on spirituality, religion, atheism, and everywhere in between. It’s still the madcap European art history and literature escapade that readers have come to expect from Brown, but this time there’s a little bit more of an edge, and there’s a futurist quality that elevated the story slightly. In fact, Origin has some real Blade Runner qualities; a scene about the Black Widow Maman sculpture compares nicely with the Turing test scene from that Blade Runner. In the Blade Runner scene Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) told a replicant that her embedded memory about a spider and eggs it carried was an implant – that the memories weren’t actually hers, and in Origin, Brown emphasizes the sculpture’s egg sack vividly. This inspires me to consider what Brown may be hinting at regarding the reality that we consider truth, and what exactly informed us that way. And speaking of replicants, Langdon is also accompanied with an advanced artificial intelligence museum docent named Winston of Kirsch’s creation that is so human it could be a repicant! Anyway, I digress.

The point is, if you like Dan Brown, and you were kind of scared off by Inferno, then Origin should bring you back to center. Origin most impressively rights the wrong of the devastatingly dull ending of Inferno by giving us one that is kind of baffling. I’m still kind of trying to figure it out, and while I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad ending, I can say with absolute conviction that the fact that I’m pondering it makes it a thousand times better than Inferno’s ending. Origin probably won’t raise the needle in terms of your expectations or enjoyment of Brown, but it’s a fast read with action, mysteries, some fun art and literature trivia, and it’s all wrapped up in a mildly suggestive controversy about the future of religion. Of course, being a world-wide best selling author, you can bet Brown only dips his toe in controversy. It would be nice to see him explore his characters’ ambiguity rather than keep the heroes, heroes, and the villains, villains, but alas, Origin never reaches that level of potential.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 23, 2018 – Shelved
March 23, 2018 – Finished Reading

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